5 Signs Your Partner Hasn't Actually Forgiven You, Therapists Say
These behaviors may indicate that they're still holding onto their hurt.
Forgiveness is an important part of every relationship, as holding onto hurt will inevitably cause more problems down the line. But sometimes accepting an apology is easier said than done. And while people often need time to work toward forgiveness, they may still feel compelled to claim they've moved on from a problem just to smooth things over. So how do you know if your partner is still harboring anger? We consulted therapists for insight into the behaviors that mean there's still healing to be done. Read on for five signs your partner hasn't actually forgiven you.
They keep bringing up a past problem.
Talking through hurtful moments can help people heal. But if your partner is constantly bringing up a past issue, it's likely a sign that they don't actually forgive you for it yet, according to David Tzall, PsyD, a licensed psychologist based in New York City.
"When an issue continues to take up space and breathing room, it is a clear indicator that it still haunts the other person and is not forgiven," he says. "They may be holding onto the anger and hurt from the past, which prevents them from moving forward."
This doesn't necessarily mean that they will not be capable of forgiving you for the problem eventually, however. As Jennifer Kelman, LCSW, a therapist with JustAnswer, explains, they may just "need some more time to communicate about things so that they can truly forgive and move forward without circling back to the same issue."
They're acting in passive-aggressive ways.
Another major sign that your partner hasn't forgiven you is passive-aggressive behavior. According to Tzall, you may notice that they are making more snide comments than usual or being overly critical toward you in ways you're not used to.
"Passive-aggressive behavior hides how someone is really feeling behind snark," he shares.
Even if your partner has verbally said they forgive you, this behavior can easily prove otherwise, Kelman confirms.
"You may find yourself being insulted in front of others and it may be disguised as humor. You may hear things like, 'Lighten up, I'm only joking,'" she says. "This passive-aggressive way of relating may indicate that forgiveness has not been given."
They're displaying defensive behavior.
It's also important to watch out for defensiveness—especially if you're worried they've been lying about forgiving you, says Gigi Engle, ACS, lead intimacy expert at 3Fun.
"Your partner may become defensive if you tell them you don't believe they've forgiven you," Engle explains. "It is confronting to find out our behaviors aren't as 'chill' as you thought they were."
You may also see this defensiveness play out in future spats, according to Kelman. Your partner might utilize a past conflict to defend their behavior when a different problem arises.
"Every new argument or fight seems to have all of the old issues being thrown into this new space of disagreement," Kelman says.
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They're giving you the cold shoulder.
On the other hand, your partner could skip defensiveness altogether and head straight to stoicism instead. According to Kelman, that could mean a cold shoulder or the silent treatment.
"If there is difficulty communicating in the relationship, then one might say they have given forgiveness just to 'move on,'" she explains. "But if things aren't discussed in a healthy way to release all of your feelings, then one might be left with feelings of anger and resentment."
They're avoiding intimacy.
Of course, your partner could try harder to save face by appearing friendly on the surface. But you may start to notice their colder nature when it comes to your more intimate moments, Tzall suggests.
"Avoiding intimacy, emotional or physical, can be a sign that all is not forgiven," he warns. "Intimacy requires vulnerability and trust. A person is not likely to let their guard down and put themself in a position to be hurt if they are still feeling the sting from being previously hurt."